My Brightest Diamond: A Thousand Shark's Teeth

Shara Worden and her group return with a new album of deeper, richly textured orchestral rock music full of drama -- oh, and there's her voice.

My Brightest Diamond

A Thousand Shark's Teeth

Label: Asthmatic Kitty
US Release Date: 2008-06-17
UK Release Date: Available as import

In August of 2006, Shara Worden and her band My Brightest Diamond released an album called Bring Me the Workhorse. It was an artful combination of indie rock and classical arrangement, tied together by Worden's distinctive and powerful voice. Bring Me the Workhorse was an impressive debut -- the sharp guitar-playing formed a strong backbone, and Worden's voice showed an easy mastery of the high drama her songs demanded. Though there was a strong element of Björk-worship, the songs held their own -- and still have power and presence today.

The new album, A Thousand Shark's Teeth, is different. Produced and arranged by Worden, and made up of songs written both before and after the earlier album, this material retains the muscular indie language of the debut, but is at the same time more complex and denser musically -- altogether more classical. If it's the influence of Worden's former composition teacher Padma Newsome, that's great. Newsome, the virtuoso behind Clogs, is himself making some of the most compelling new minimalist chamber-indie crossover pieces around. Now Worden can count herself with at least the same seriousness of purpose.

That's not to say My Brightest Diamond has turned into a classical project. Nor is it to be lumped with the hulking obviousness of a group like Tarantula A.D. Part of the difference is in Worden's much-celebrated voice, in as fine form here as you would expect. But the music itself is lither. It uses guitar to add an exclamation point in a song's coda, or to infuse a sense of menace to a floating piece like opener "Inside a Boy". But the guitars are treated more as one piece of a full orchestra of instruments on A Thousand Shark's Teeth, less like a traditional band-with-orchestral-flourishes.

Let's examine this a bit closer. "Like a Sieve", a pattering, attractive song, churns on complex machinery. The song reminds of one of those Vaughan Williams folk songs from the beginning of the 20th century, where he uses casual atonalities to undermine the pastoral simplicity of the lyrics. Worden undermines her own operatic delivery in a similar way. But she takes it a step further by doing away with the verse-refrain structure in favour of a more atmospheric, free-flowing form. Even more buried is the fact that the song's built off a sample by Tricky. There are many examples like this throughout the album.

"Bass Player" might be the highlight of the album. Coiled, syncopated bass lines fit unexpectedly; above them, Worden spins out an old-school, minor key romantic ballad reminiscent of Nick Cave. Thing is, the orchestration's more complex, all overlapping wind instruments and tinkling marimba, building inexorably with tremolo strings, breathing new life into her desperate plea: "Blow me a kiss before I drown".

Still, you get the feeling that My Brightest Diamond is on its way up, not yet at the peak of its musical expression. Worden still channels Björk, but occasionally also Regina Spektor, and the altered pronunciation feels at times a little put-on. In the moments where she dips back into familiar rock textures, Worden shares the crashing intensity of Jeff Buckley -- but it's not quite as compelling as the more original compositions. Songs like "The Ice & the Storm", with its complex harmonies and atonal haunting of sonic ghosts, and the drum machine-fuelled "Apples", with its complex interplay of pizzicato and duelling rhythmic/lyrical delivery, prove this.

It's nothing too much to complain about -- there's still plenty to appreciate about A Thousand Shark's Teeth. It's a swooning, big-gestured album to get lost in. Discovering new complexities and subtleties each time is an added bonus.





How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.


From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?


The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.


'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.


​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.


Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.


Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.


Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.


Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.


Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.


Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.